2027 Women's World Cup bids: U.S., Mexico jointly enter a 3-horse race

Soccer Football - FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Final - Spain v England - Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia - August 20, 2023 General view of a Spain player holding the World Cup trophy after the match REUTERS/Carl Recine
The U.S. and Mexico formally submitted their bid to host the 2027 Women's World Cup on Friday. (REUTERS/Carl Recine)

The U.S. and Mexico on Friday formally submitted their joint bid to host the 2027 Women's World Cup, entering a three-horse race for the next edition of the tournament.

The North American neighbors had been mum on their plans since officially expressing interest back in April. But on Friday, they announced basic details of their proposal for a tournament that, they believe, would smash all sorts of commercial records for a women's sporting event.

Their competitors for 2027 hosting rights are Brazil and a joint bid from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

FIFA is expected to release more details of the three bids later Friday.

The U.S. and Mexico, in their news release, did not name specific cities or stadiums. They said they would be in a "unique position to sell out high-capacity stadiums for every match, with most of the venues over 65,000 seats." They also admitted that "the facilities detailed in the bid materials act as examples, or an initial proposal."

That, multiple people familiar with discussions told Yahoo Sports, is because U.S. Soccer has not engaged with potential host cities nearly as much as they had at this stage of the bidding process for the 2026 men's World Cup.

Planning for that World Cup, and specifically FIFA's monopolization of revenues, has frustrated many officials in the 11 U.S. host cities. They likely would've been hesitant to make formal commitments to hosting in 2027 amid simmering tension about 2026. And they might still be hesitant in the future unless FIFA adjusts an operational model that allows it to make billions of dollars off World Cups while local host committees struggle to cover costs.

The U.S. and Mexico, perhaps with an implicit nod toward the 2026 tension, said in their Friday release that they are proposing "an integrated partnership model that brings host cities, stadiums, partners and FIFA together, allowing the ecosystem to collectively tap into greater economic benefits and drive the women’s game forward" in 2027.

Their pitch, essentially, is that even with some sort of revenue-sharing agreement, FIFA could glean unprecedented profits that it couldn't in Brazil or northwestern Europe — profits that would allow it to equalize prize money and funnel funds back into women's soccer around the world.

The U.S. and Mexico also plan "to leverage key efficiencies" from the 2026 men's tournament, "including sporting and transportation infrastructure, as well as practiced safety protocols." Much of what they'd need to stage a fantastic Women's World Cup will already be in place.

The other two bids, though, have their own selling points. In fact, U.S. and Mexican officials, in discussions with FIFA, debated whether to repurpose their bid for 2031. They'd likely still do that if they don't win the race for 2027.

Brazil’s bid

Brazilian officials confirmed Nov. 5 that their country would submit a bid, some four years after they withdrew from the 2023 race.

They have secured necessary government guarantees, recently delivered bid materials to FIFA in Zurich and pitched themselves as “Uma Escolha Natural,” A Natural Choice.

Their biggest selling point, though, might just be that Brazil is a relatively untapped women’s soccer market. Its men’s soccer heritage is rich. But its history of neglecting the women’s game is equally extensive. A well-marketed Women’s World Cup on home soil, organized and promoted primarily by FIFA (as all World Cups are now), would go a long way to undoing that history and unlocking the country’s vast potential.

Beatriz Zaneratto João of Brazil celebrates her goal during the International Women's Friendly match between Brazil and Japan on Nov. 30 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo by Marco Galvão/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Brazil also has the necessary infrastructure. It is the richest country in South America, a continent that has never hosted the Women’s World Cup. And it has ready-made stadiums, some built or refurbished for the 2014 men’s World Cup, some even more modern. In late September, the Brazilian soccer federation said it would offer 13 stadiums, all with capacities over 40,000, across 10 cities.

That, of course, would require more travel than a World Cup in northwestern Europe. It would offer much less financial certainty than a World Cup in the United States and Mexico. If the mission is simply to profit — and often it is for Gianni Infantino’s FIFA — then Brazil wouldn’t be the top choice.

But no other option offers as much long-term upside, as much potential to further FIFA’s stated mission to grow the game worldwide.

"Brazil is the clear favorite to host the next Women's World Cup," Ednaldo Rodrigues, the president of Brazil's soccer federation, declared in a statement this week. "We are very confident."

Belgium-Germany-Netherlands bid

Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have so far compiled the most publicly polished bid, with press releases and promotional videos championing gender equity and the inspirational capacity of a World Cup in their region.

They have proposed a range of venues, from 20,000-seaters in Belgium to Ajax Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena and the 81,365-capacity Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, Germany. Crucially, despite being spread across three countries, all would be within a 100-mile radius. (The distance from New York to Los Angeles, by comparison, is roughly 2,500 miles.)

Excellent transportation systems would connect many of the dozen cities. Infrastructure is largely in place. The Low Countries and Germany would, by all accounts, host a great Women’s World Cup, both for fans and for European TV viewers.

Netherlands players and Belgian players gather together behind a banner in support of the BND bid for the 2027 FIFA Women's World Cup ahead of a friendly soccer match on July 2 in Kerkrade. (Photo by DAVID CATRY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)
Netherlands players and Belgian players gather together behind a banner in support of the BND bid for the 2027 FIFA Women's World Cup ahead of a friendly soccer match on July 2 in Kerkrade. (Photo by DAVID CATRY/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

But what unique purpose would it serve?

The tournament just visited Europe (France) in 2019 and went to Germany in 2011.

The U.S., meanwhile, can offer more revenue. The European bid is targeting roughly $850 million in World Cup-related income, according to the Dutch soccer federation; the North American bid is targeting billions. And Brazil can offer a new frontier.

The Women’s World Cup does not adhere to a continental rotation policy. But it would seem silly to give three of five editions between 2010 and 2030 to western Europe. It would make far more sense to go to South America in 2027, then Europe or North America in 2031, then Africa or East Asia in 2035.

What’s next?

According to FIFA’s official “bidding process timeline,” the global governing body will organize on-site inspection visits to the candidate countries in February, then publish a traditional “bid evaluation report” in May.

From there, the FIFA Council — a 37-member body comprising several elected soccer officials from each continental confederation — will select up to three bids to go up for vote at FIFA’s May 17 Congress — a meeting of 211 officials, one from each national soccer federation around the world.

On paper, it’s essentially the same process that U.S. officials, along with Canada and Mexico, navigated in 2018, when they won the right to host the 2026 men’s World Cup. In reality, it might unfold differently. FIFA’s top decision-makers, led by Infantino, have taken an increasingly hands-on and autocratic approach to World Cup host selections. Infantino brokered a compromise to send the 2030 men’s tournament to Iberia and Morocco (with three opening games in South America) and the 2034 edition to Saudi Arabia. Might he find a way to negotiate a deal for his preferred host in 2027 and 2031?

Technically, the decision remains in the hands of the Congress — but not if the Infantino-led Council nominates only one of the three bidders. So in addition to bid evaluations over the coming months, there will likely be strategic discussions among soccer power-brokers about where to take their banner women’s event.